Being alone is not the same as being lonely.
Being alone is a state of being by oneself without others around. It can actually be a healthy phenomenon, as everyone needs a little time away from others to plan, to think, and to rest.
However, being lonely is a different matter entirely. When people are alone, they don’t always feel lonely. While many people can still feel lonely even if they are surrounded by people. To put it simply, loneliness can be viewed as a signal indicating that some important social connections are at risk or even absent.
Loneliness is both genetic and environmental.
Why do we feel lonely? Perhaps it’s people’s nature. Researchers find that loneliness can be passed down from parent to child. 1 The genetic data collected from twins, relatives, and adopted children proves this trait is a part of their genetic makeup.
Loneliness is not only a nature. Sometimes people feel lonely because they’re affected by others. Loneliness is contagious. People who are not lonely tend to become lonelier if they are around lonely people, according to a research.2
Loneliness is closely linked to health problems.
While it’s normal to feel lonely or isolated from time to time, too much loneliness can be unhealthy or even dangerous. Numerous studies have linked with excessive ongoing feelings of loneliness to the following health issues 3:
- Difficult breathing
- Feeling of isolation
- Brain fog
- Obsessive behaviors
However, as a matter of fact, loneliness is a condition that can be fought against and overcome.
Here we have 10 things for you to cope with loneliness easily.
1. Take a walk to refresh your mind and body.
Walking has been proven to offer many great health benefits for the body and the mind. Yes, any form of exercise would do as well, but walking is better, as it allows one to explore their town in a way a car ride simply does not provide.
When you decide to walk, even when you are getting to an usual goal, try to take a different route than you usually do. Even better, try to pick a direction at random. Just the feeling of walking down the street, surrounded by traffic and other people, is going to make you feel involved in your own city. At the end, you may discover something new you hadn’t known before!
2. Join a club and meet people who share your passion too.
Everyone has some passion. Sometimes, sharing your passion with others does not only open you up to more friendship; it may even enhance your talents in surprising ways!
Even the smallest town has some clubs. If you are interested in public service, why don’t you try the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, or the Lions Club? If you like playing chess, join a chess club; playing with others will definitely sharpen your logic skills.
Or you can even explore things which are new to you. Pottery, writing, wine tasting, dancing. These are only a few examples of many.
If there’re no nearby clubs that interest you, start one of your own. Odds are good that if you have an interest, someone else in the area is likely to share it!
3. Heat up a “real” conversation to invite deep friendship.
We are especially prone to loneliness in the modern society. Social media like Facebook, Whatsapp, or Snapchat may allow more convenient communication, but all these ways of communication neglect the importance of face-to-face socialization.
And at the end, despite many “friends” we have on the online media, they don’t really have anyone to talk to when they need friends most.
We prefer online communication to face-to-face conversation because online communication is less committed, if you don’t respond instantly, it’s okay. But face-to-face conversation doesn’t really need to be stressful. When you’re with someone who you can be comfortable with, silence is precious too.
Just try to reconnect with your old friends, grab a coffee and have a chat with them casually. You guys can even talk about all the silly things you did together in the past, and understand how each other’s doing now.
4. Adopt a pet to heal your pain and anxiety.
Having a pet can heal pain or anxiety arising from loneliness.
It does so, as it colors your leisure time. Pets are always there willing to spend time with you. Think of all the strolling, playing, or like me with my dog, sleeping together.
But beyond just being a loyal companion, a pet is literally a medicine to heal your pain, as science says. As Dr. Becker says, a pet is like Valium, which reduces anxiety, and “the less anxiety, the less pain”
And a study in Loyola University also proves that people who receive pet therapy recover from surgery with significantly less pain medicine than those who do not.
As the creator of the comic Peanuts, Charles Schulz said, “happiness is a warm puppy”.
If you hope to combat loneliness and embrace happiness, you may consider getting a pet!
5. Offer others a helping hand to realize your own value.
Very often, the root of loneliness is that we don’t feel valued by others. But in fact, self-value is earned.
Audrey Hepburn once said:
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others”.
This quote highlights the importance of helping others, and also highlights the fact that most of the time we are the key to many problems we are facing; in other words, you can cure your loneliness.
Giving others a hand will help you realize your value, as you discover you are capable of doing so. And helping others also open up opportunities of deep friendships, as very often, a deep relationship is forged in adversity.
When we talk about “helping others”, you don’t need to always save others by risking life. You can just pay attention to details.
Write your colleague a card if he or she is unhappy. Read out loud for the old man living next to you. Or help a child to reach the top of a rack.
These are not issues of life or death. But it is in these details that we realize love.
6. Talk to yourself to build a better self-relationship.
When you feel lonely and think you have got no friends to talk to, you yourself is the best person to talk to.
It may sound weird and insane but it works. You can simply talk to yourself in your mind or pick up a pen and write yourself a letter. Treat yourself as a friend of yours. Tell about your day and talk about your feeling. You can share crazy ideas with yourself without worrying what others think. This serves as an opportunity to build a better relationship with yourself.
In life, there are many people around you. They come and go. Only very few of them stay till the end. So the most important relationship in life is the self-relationship. You will be clearer of how you feel and what you think after a genuine conversation with yourself.
7. Do something random to experience new excitement.
Loneliness is sometimes accompanied with boredom. Some spontaneous randomness would drive away your sadness.
It can be small things like taking a different route to work, hopping on a random bus to go to the other side of the city where you have never been to, or traveling to a foreign country to get lost in translation.
Such randomness brings you excitement when you’re discovering something new. When you take a different route to work, you barely know what you will see and who you will meet at the next street corner. Every minute is new to you. It’s like an adventure.
8. Strike up conversation with strangers to feel connected.
What is the best thing about strangers? They don’t know you and they don’t judge you. Even if they judge you, you needn’t feel bad as you won’t see them ever again!
Strangers are everywhere. You can simply strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on a bus, or the person who shares a table with you at a diner. There are also many ways for you to meet people online through apps and websites.
Talking to someone makes you feel connected, even if the connection only lasts for a while. But when the connection is lost, you won’t feel that bad because from the very beginning you have already known that this won’t last long.
9. Stay away from people who are not sympathetic.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but somehow staying with toxic people who don’t show sympathy for others may make you even lonelier.
A fruitful relationship is supposed to make you feel contented. However, being with someone who is unable to understand you, it is hard to feel happy. You may even feel lonelier if that person is a narcissist who constantly undermines your self-respect.
Consider walking away from anyone who doesn’t make you feel happy, or make you feel even lonelier.
What nourishes our life is meaningful relationships, not destructive ones. If you find someone who is deepening your loneliness, let go of them.
10. If your loneliness is continuously stressing you, seek professional medical help.
Persistent loneliness is an indicator of depression. In case of depression, professional medication is necessary. Counselling is helpful. A few sessions with a trained psychologist are going to help you pinpoint what triggers your loneliness. A trained psychologist is able to help you with professional strategies.
Please remember seeking help is not a weakness; quite the contrary, seeking help takes a lot more strength than pretending everything is fine. Be brave to tackle the problem. And we believe you will eventually get the taste of happiness in life.
*Originally published on Life Hack.